Tearing Down and Building Up
Hello. It's been a while, hasn't it? I have reasons and excuses, but most of them aren't really very interesting. No, really. I mean it. Nothing to...
...okay, I'm lying.
Since September, I've been building bits of this game, trying them out, rewriting them, trying again, refocusing on some different aspect of the huge design and then coming back to do that little circuit all over again.
As this was driving me insane, I also decided to learn how to model in 3D which ate another chunk of time.
I promised I'd try and make this blog useful, and I intend to keep that promise where possible. This involves making the world aware of when projects go a bit wrong, rather than always focusing on the positive, and hopefully help people avoid the same pitfalls.
Everyone knows what a Turducken is, yes? That weird thing served in the US at Thanksgiving to illustrate quite how a massive cull of wildfowl can be crammed into a single dish? Some people think it looks delicious. To me, it looks kind of like the world's worst Star Trek transporter accident, or a deleted scene from The Fly 2.
Some people claim it is delicious. I am not convinced. Due to this, I am sure nobody in their right mind would think it a good idea for me to try making one. Bear with me. This is relevant. BeMuse has/had become somewhat of a Turducken. And we all know what the first syllable of that is, don't we? Not good. At last count, BeMuse was about 5 different games:
- Demon summoning, bargaining and defeating
- Exploration, secrets, rumours and lies
- Personal interpretation of rituals
- Multi-user Interaction
- Endless gameplay
Trying to massage these into a whole, solid thing has been extraordinarily painful, and has resulted in a messy concoction that is going to take more effort to straighten out than I have time to implement those changes. Nasty. After my experiences with Incoboto (which had turned into a Roguelike at one point, remember!), I swore I'd never do this again... and yet have done it again.
As such, I have decided to focus my efforts entirely on the first two.
What Have You Learned?
This is easy.
"DO NOT TRY TO EMPHASISE EVERY PART OF A MULTI-ASPECT GAME"
"KNOW WHAT YOUR GAME IS REALLY ABOUT!"
I am better at creating linear experiences and mood than I am at developing complex, interacting systems. Despite this, with BeMuse I had five aspects of the game competing with each other, daily. My notion of creating a complex system was to try and get lots of elements of the game in... and to a finished level of quality. Yes, I know prototyping isn't supposed to work like that, but just one more hour and this inventory system will work really nicely!
Of course, this idiocy also leads you to start believing that every part of the game you start working on is the most important. I have no other partners working on this project, so there's nobody to say, "Hang on... why are you spending so much time on that?" The net result is that it's easy to start 'cycling'. As each new part of the game is emphasised, all the others get pushed out of the way, broken, or mistreated. One glance over your shoulder and you say: "Crap! Must go back and fix those bits... and polish them... and..." It is the very definition of a vicious circle.
This can all be avoided by knowing what ONE thing your game is about. If you think it's about more than one thing, you're probably wrong... or bolting two games together.
Competing foci pull a game apart.
BeMuse - What is it about?
"BeMuse is the story of a small child who learns about the Demons that inhabit his world, and slowly learns to defeat them through exploration and ritual magic."
"BeMuse is a series of stories framing opportunities for experimentation and discovery."
That's it. Many of the other elements of the game as described previously are still present, but if they get a bit broken along the way, I shan't worry too much, because the game is about stories.
And that is enough.
I'll leave you with a totem illustrating four of the major demons in the game. I shall not tell you their names, as they are words of power (and spoilers!). I'd hate people to be eaten from the inside-out by tiny spiders they inadvertently summoned up. That would be bad.
If the game works out, I may well get this tattooed onto my right arm as a reminder not to lose focus quite so badly in the future. Thanks for your patience.
Fluttermind’s director, Dene Carter, is a games industry veteran of over 25 years, and co-founder of Big Blue Box Studios, creators of the Fable franchise for the XBox and XBox 360.